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In Wilbon's World

Bad Call Begets Worse One

The way Serena Williams lost her U.S. Open semifinal to Kim Clijsters on Saturday night calls for some more investigation. But for now, it's still a shocker.

Serena says she didn't threaten the lineswoman, but if somebody came toward me with a tennis racket I'd have felt threatened, and I'd have come out of my seat to prepare for a physical confrontation.

It seemed like a really, really bad call -- a stupid and petty call to come up with a foot fault there. Replays certainly suggest it wasn't a foot fault. If I was Serena Williams I'd have been enraged, too.

But to go on and on like that and let yourself become that distracted when a Grand Slam championship is on the line and you're within reach of winning the second set? I don't get that 1984 McEnroevian lack of control from a woman who is such a champion. It cost too much.

Update from the editors: Wilbon now has a full column on Serena Williams's outburst live on the site.


Michael Wilbon

 |  September 13, 2009; 10:02 AM ET  |  Category:  Serena Williams , Tennis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Wilbon - way to stand up.
David1 - you are a pen racist. You will make thing harder for those who protest.
What do you call one who judges imaginary lines? Crazy usually.
Asians can be racist.
Racism exists.
If you cannot take sever criticism then being a judge for a game is not your calling.
When you have personal issues with the players you preside over then judges refs umpires and officials should be banned.
Have you ever seen kids cheated on because of race in sports? If not then you area truly fortunate if you have and you did not blow your cool you are a stupid coward.
That is what set the civil rights leaders apart in the sixties from today more peserverance and guts. And no Serena does not have to be perfect to be protected from this DAvid1. If you area a hiring manager you are truly frightening.

Posted by: zariah | September 16, 2009 8:37 PM
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Youtube clearly shows Serena stepping on the baseline. Is that a foot fault? Or are rules determined by race. Is Serena allowed to break the rules of tennis because she is African American, a woman, a champion and American or whatever?

Readers, listen to yourself....ask yourself....

If the linesperson had allowed Serena to get away with a foot fault - its OK but if she had allowed the white opponent to get away with a foot fault - would it would be racism against a black person?!
If a white player threatened a black lineswoman and said she would shove a f****** ball down her throat - would you be upset and call it racism?

Shouldn't sports be played by the same rules for everyone? Shouldn't players be expected to show respect for officials and not physically threaten them? Or somehow, is it OK for special people to do whatever they want? Try to reverse the race of the people involved and then see what your reaction would be?

FYI, I am of mixed race.

Posted by: anniemouse | September 14, 2009 3:45 AM
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Wilbon's World obviously does not include looking at replays even on YouTube to see if her foot went onto the line. It clearly did. To Whit: You Tube- Serena Williams Verbally Abuses Line Judge at U.S. Open For BAD CALL! (despite fellow abuser McEnroe's pronouncement otherwise) or You Tube- Serena Williams - K.Clijsters USA Open 2009 Referee Fight Lineman Fight Hakem ile Kavga.

Posted by: wturecki | September 14, 2009 1:52 AM
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who's been carrying american tennis for the past 12 years,yes the williams sisters because there are no sorry behind females that can compete on the international stage with them against the europeans and russians.

Posted by: ronaldtennillegeorgia1 | September 13, 2009 10:50 PM
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Strangely enough, line judges don't like being cursed out or threatened by privileged superstars who earn more in a single tournament than they make in a lifetime. The line judges do their best and make mistakes like everyone else.

If I were Serena Williams, I would offer an abject apology and perhaps a small gift to the line judge she threatened. Otherwise, she may find herself making many more foot faults than she expects in the years to come.

Posted by: David61 | September 13, 2009 9:46 PM
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It was a mercy call by the line judge.

Serena was going to lose anyway.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | September 13, 2009 9:34 PM
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No justice, no peace. Fine her, ban her, dismiss her.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | September 13, 2009 9:31 PM
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I would like to know how many foot faults were called in the tournament?, and how many raquet throwers were cautioned?.
Some of you are taking this to a personal level I do not understand, or is it just everyone now wants to be a talk radio host?.

Posted by: JillCalifornia | September 13, 2009 9:06 PM
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during the first week serena had a bad call with the foot-fault and stared down at the linesman.the lineswoman in my opinion was getting back at serena but the fact that she did not know serena would implode caught her by surprise.the lineswoman brought about the situation by intentionally cheating at a crucial moment in the set.if serena is to be fined some measure should be levied againt the lines's obvious a bad call was made,let the players make the decision as to who wins.

Posted by: ronaldtennillegeorgia1 | September 13, 2009 8:11 PM
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typical racial bull sh%$# from m.w. who would have guessed.

Posted by: tmi1 | September 13, 2009 7:56 PM
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Regarding another matter, a few days ago, Serena said "I am from Compton..." -- an allusion, one has to think, to violence and thuggery. "You don't effing know me"? Well, we do now. The worst part was her pretending she'd forgotten what she'd said. To avoid all charges of racism, somebody should get Oprah on the phone: I'm petty sure The Big O would say that Serena's behavior was appalling.

Posted by: joesphoto1 | September 13, 2009 7:55 PM
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If not the race card than absolutely the sex card. McEnroe got away with far far more than that and got good ratings and became rich for it. The other result was better officiating.. a lot of the time Mac was right the calls were horrible. The officiating in this match was a joke and the lineswomen should be fired.

Posted by: AndyShep | September 13, 2009 7:48 PM
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Wilbon, you lie or don't know the rules. Don't play the race card! Find another job!

Posted by: iamafg | September 13, 2009 7:31 PM
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Her own mother said that Serena was out of line. That should silence the idiots playing the race card.

Posted by: Beckola | September 13, 2009 7:16 PM
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Serena must have seen, and been inspired by, Michael Jordan's speech......she is a self-centered baby who ought to be ashamed...
the words "sportswoman" and "Serena Williams" are oxymorons

Posted by: glennbegly | September 13, 2009 7:05 PM
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1)Bad call ?? The videos are inconclusive and the line judge was sitting only a few feet away and had a better look than any camera.

2) To those who say it was a wrong time to call the foot fault I quote George Vecsey of the NYT :
"The last thing tennis needs is line officials thinking about anything about the score or the gravity of the moment. Just make the call."

3) The match was played in Arthur Ashe stadium. Arthur Ashe was just inducted into the US Open Court of Champions.
Serena has to look no further than Arthur Ashe to learn how a truly admirable sportsperson should behave.
Also, a quote from Arthur Ashe :
"If one's reputation is a possession, then of all my possessions, my reputation means most to me."

Posted by: observer31 | September 13, 2009 6:55 PM
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That line judge was Asian- and - in my experience- Asians have NO love for blacks....looks like she might have gotten spooked out by Serena's impressive aura.

Posted by: Xavisev | September 13, 2009 5:39 PM
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And the ghettoization of the gentlemanly game of tennis continues. What's next - going into the stands after the fans? Or how about drive bys after the match?

Posted by: Bcamp55 | September 13, 2009 5:06 PM
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I don't understand what this has to do with ACORN?????

An linesman made a call, be it good or bad. It was not STUPID, and should not be classified as such.

If anything, Serena Williams bahavior should be cause for fines and suspension from the game for a period of time.

Ms. williams not only threatened the linesman once, she then regrouped and started after her again. Her language was vile, and her physical approach of the linesman with an outreached racket on not once but two occasions was physically threatening. This is not only deplorable conduct, but should be considered criminal behavior.

Posted by: kare1 | September 13, 2009 5:06 PM
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You would actually say the call was "petty" and "stupid"?! Unlike the cameras, the linesperson was viewing the baseline straight on, and all the replays show a very close brush despite the off angles, with one showing what clearly looks like her foot going over the line.

I hope that you, Mr. Wilbon, will not be like Miss Williams and instead have the class to apologize about your public insult of the linesperson. You may question the timing of the call, but calling out someone unfairly as "petty" and "stupid" on a public forum like this is, well, petty and stupid.

Posted by: LifeObserver | September 13, 2009 5:02 PM
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Wow! The Deathers, Secessionists, Bible-thumpers and their ilk are in full force here! I wonder how many of them are still toweling off after Joe Wilson's controversial outburst earlier this week? The media is treating that debacle not as if Wilson obviously didn't read or did not understand what he read, but as if he has a legitimate gripe. Now is the time for both the media and the Republikooks to be consistent and entertain the idea that Serena had a legitimate gripe -- in a much, much less important arena of consequence.

For those who rationalize that Serena was losing and lost her marbles, I call on you to do you due diligence and review the number of times she was at set or match point and the talking heads were pronouncing her impending defeat, and she came back and won! Whether you like her, Venus, her father, or the fact that two Black women have been and still dominate the White tennis world, Serena is still a champion (although, as Wilbon said, she did not behave like one this time.) Champions fight to the end; they don't go quietly into the night just because they are being outplayed or might lose.

Was this the occasion to stand up for oneself? It was a bad call at a critical juncture, so I believe it was. Was Serena's reaction the way to do that? No, although her shocking display certainly makes it clear that she demands the same level of excellence and consistency which is demanded of both her and Venus. Even when they play well, the talking heads criticize them both for not playing better, for having outside interests, their hair, their clothes, for not having more championships, for not being thin, blond haired, blue eyed fashion model-types, etc... all while keeping America relevant and dominant on the professional tennis scene. For this alone, I can forgive her for this transgression.

And so should every American.

Beyond this, I can easily imagine her thinking in the heat of the moment that the last thing she needed was to have to play against her opponent AND the game referees.

Why can't "the appalled detractors"?

Let's give her a pass this time!

Posted by: iphoenix | September 13, 2009 5:02 PM
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When you get too big for your tennis shoes it's time for charm school. Sorry Serena you will learn calls are made both ways, and poor judgement doesn't win you fans.

Posted by: MOMLEE | September 13, 2009 4:58 PM
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Serena's temper has gotten out of control before, but this was totally over the top. And usually when she loses, she manages to tear down her opponent in some way or otherwise be ungracious. Venus is better in that regard, as well as not losing her temper so obviously.

I can't believe the comments that the line judge "looked like a doofus" (!!) and shouldn't have called the fault just because it was close to the end of the match. First of all, let's have some integrity for a change. Sports may not be the most important issue facing us at the moment, but it's also not the only place where there is a really disappointing unwillingness to take responsibility for errors these days. Sad. And as for the lineswoman, you don't get assigned to be on the line at a semifinal match in a major tournament if you're inexperienced or unreliable. I'm sure the woman in this case, no matter whether she was small in stature (what does that have to do with anything, anyway?) or whatever else, was considered competent to be in that position. I thought the replay showed Serena's toe touching the line when she pivoted, but it doesn't matter what we saw or didn't see. It only matters what the lineswoman saw, and if she saw it, she was supposed to call it.

What's the deal with needing to stand on top of the line, anyway? Would backing up an inch throw off your entire serve so horrendously? Try standing an inch behind the line at practice, and you'll get used to it -- your serve isn't going to lose speed covering a whole extra inch crossing the net.

Posted by: sally1860 | September 13, 2009 4:57 PM
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It certainly was a bad call. However I was very shocked by Serena's action. Yet Athletes loose their cool all the time, especially in tennis..Circa: John Mcenore, Jimmy Connors, Marat Safin, Leyton Hewit, Andy Roddick..even some of the great females Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, They have all lost their cools. So why are we all picking on the Black girl? Oh because she's a black woman. And God forbid a "black woman" has an attitude. She is seen as threatening.
She should have just move on. Serena has come back from match point down several times. She saved 3 match points against Sharapova in the 2005 Aussie Open and went on to win..she saved 3 match points against Dementiva in the 2009 Wimbledon Semi and went on to win. Serena was definetly capable of Saving this match. Too bad.
She shouldn't be penalized when her white male and female counterparts do the same thing all the time.

Posted by: rlj489 | September 13, 2009 4:40 PM
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Hello Mr. Wilbon,

Are you new to sports? If not, then you should know that as your guy ,girl or team go the calls. The luck really. Great pitchers generally get the close calls. And, the reverse is more true.

Sooooooooooooooory. But I am right.
This girl was off game, and she acted trashy/ghetto-like. Like that dumb boy, McEnroe.
Acted and played like a loser, did she.

Posted by: fshaffer | September 13, 2009 4:24 PM
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I just feel bad for Kim Clistjers. The lineswoman AND Serena effectively put an asterisk on a victory that doesn't deserve one. Clistjers played a brilliant match and we should focus on that. But, of course, we won't. That said, Wilbon is right: 2 bad calls. As for the foot fault, it looked like the lineswoman was reacting to the initial pivot of William's foot (it looked like it was moving forward across the line, but it just pivoted, then planted, behind the line). But Serena's outburst was immature and should have been penalized.

Posted by: ChrisDC | September 13, 2009 4:20 PM
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And Wilbon, your respect rating just took a huge hit with me! Calling a line judge "stupid and petty" for just trying to call what they saw, according to the rules. You couldn't be more wrong. Since when did the rules go out the window? We need more respect for the rules in sports, not less. You are wrong.

Posted by: martintomsal | September 13, 2009 4:16 PM
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Not a bad call! A foot fault is not a judgement call. If the foot is over, you call it. I don't think the people commenting had a better view than the judge. If they see it they should call it. And this talk about "you don't call a foot fault at this point in the match". Um - where is that i the rules of tennis. So foot faults are OK at that point? Right.

Posted by: martintomsal | September 13, 2009 4:08 PM
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Venus and Serena have had to endure some of the worst calls in tennis. Serena vs Capriata at the US Open when the umpire overruled a line judge and gave a point to Capriati, Venus at Wimbledon when the umpire got the score wrong, Serena at 2 French Opens when her Henin and Martinez-Sanchez both cheated to win games. That she finally lost it is completely understandable. Should she have, probably not, but I certainly get why the lid finally blew off.

Posted by: Misty630 | September 13, 2009 4:07 PM
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Wilbon, you should be trying to have your sloppy, biased and unprofessional article pulled ASAP to salvage what's left of your credibility. I generally enjoy reading your comments, and while not always in agreement, they're at least rational enough to be thought-provoking where I disagree.

Not this time.

"Stupid" was a stupid word to use, and for stupid reasons.

You, and too many others here....who apparently have either never competed in sports at a significant level...seem to very incorrectly believe that it's OK to allow an athlete to cheat (with or without intent), at a particularly sensitive moment during a competition...whether it be football, baseball, tennis, etc.

As an athlete who was recruited by and played for Syracuse many decades ago, I think the very suggestion by ANYONE that a ref shouldn't make a call they believe they saw (right or wrong is irrelevant), at a heightened moment of competition is TOTAL HORSE-HOCKEY!!!

Those who think the rules are less binding at such moments are....and obviously have never been more than....armchair quarterbacks!!!

My money is on the line ref here. First of all, and for reasons stated above, it took guts to make that call at that time. And it wasn't completely out of the blue either as Serena had clearly done this earlier in the match...though that doesn't make this call 100-percent accurate by itself. But it does mean it's not impossible that Serena can foot fault.

I watched Serena play in some of the doubles matches earlier in the week and guess what? She foot faulted a few times! Again, doesn't mean that last call was good, but the trend was there.

But the notion that it's OK to let ANY ATHLETE get away with breaking a rule of play because of either who they are or how critical the just plain asinine.

I rooted for the Williams sisters when they were underdogs...and often even when they were favored. They are tremendously gifted athletes, and it is nothing less than amazing to watch Serena quickly move all over the court with her impressive stature. But this time I was for Clijster, because of her comeback story and the way she was gracefully making it happen with her excellent shot-making and determined focus. I'd never rooted for her before. And Serena's raquet-smashing only reinforced my desire to see Clijsters win the match.

I've lost my cool during competition and have been rightly penalized for it too.

BTW - the term is "asian" not "oriental." Don't ask me why, ask my wife of philipine ancestry... Heck, I'm still wondering why suddenly people from India are now called Asian....

Posted by: post19 | September 13, 2009 4:06 PM
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those are the rules. if her foot was over the line she gets the call. no special rules because her name is williams or that she is black.
she could just have moved on but she decided to do her mack the mouth routine and got caught for it.
everything is her fault.
she was getting beat by a superior player that day and she was frustrated and angry and it cost her the points, but i doubt it cost her the game - she was going to lose anyway.

Posted by: infantry11b4faus | September 13, 2009 3:58 PM
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Folks, rather than argue the merits of who did and saw and reacted to what, I'm just disappointed and feeling an angst for all of us here - on the sidelines - looking for great moments and great heroes. All this yelling, screaming, You Lie! type stuff just everywhere. What role models for our kids and the next generation? Who do we have left to inspire us each morning on our Wheaties box?

Posted by: HuskyAK | September 13, 2009 3:47 PM
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To those arguing whether the call was correct, or whether it should have been made at that stage of the match, IT DOES NOT MATTER!

Serena's behavior was completely unacceptable and the assessment of a point penalty was the correct action by the officials. It was SERENA's responsibility to know what she was risking with that behavior. She knew the risk and chose to behave horribly knowing one more point would end the match. And then she went back a second time instead of just serving and getting away with it the first time.

Someone else said they'd never seen Serena behave this way before and I concur. I hope she takes some time to think through how and why she let her frustration disgrace her in this manner. A league action is warranted in my opinion. Tennis has given her everything. She needs to show respect for that fact and all of the elements of the game, opponent, fans and officials.

And one other point - whether others have also acted this way is just as irrelevant as whether the call was right or whether it should have been made. She did what she did and there can be no excuse for it -- that's the issue.

Posted by: pmi1027 | September 13, 2009 3:34 PM
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>>those of you defending the line judge have clearly never played at the championship level of any sport. There are certain calls in any sport (football, basketball and yes, tennis) that are not made when critical points are on the line.

Well, I played and taught tennis full-time for six years (although not the US Open level) and I think you're wrong.

I also had the unfortunate experience of calling a foot fault on match point in a regional (Southern California) tournament. It was the first serve and the player lost on the next point. I felt terrible about that (still do). But what is a lines person to do? How much of the line does the server have to step on for a fault to be called? An eighth of an inch? A quarter inch? A half inch? An inch? All of it? It's not supposed to be a judgment call.

And would you apply the same standard to line calls? If the ball is just barely out, should the player still get credit? I don't think so.

Posted by: dktrrobt | September 13, 2009 3:29 PM
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The U.S.Open people are to blame for all this chaos. The airhead U.S.Open people have influenced the outcome of this game and the whole last weekend of the tournament by their incompetence. Serena is not at fault in this circumstance -- she was in the moment.

I've never been a big Williams fan, but this was a big moment, a big point. The lines woman looked like a doofus. I'm an Asian so don't call me a racist. Does this lineswoman not get the big picture? (Why are the press and tennis elites so afraid that Asian people will be offended if someone nails a doofus for being a doofus).
Curiously enough, I've now become a Serena fan...She handled herself well in the post game press conference. Frankly, I think Serena was robbed and so were the fans. Kim Clisters was denied her legitimate win. The people running the U.S. Open are screwups -- this incident and poor planning overall with a lack of a roof for the 2nd year in a row. NYC (which gets the blame to us outsiders) looks like a backwater compared to other international sites. Don't blame the player (Serena). Don't blame the rain. Blame the U.S.Open people for all this chaos -- how smart do you have to be to throw up a roof.

Posted by: night3 | September 13, 2009 3:28 PM
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1) Few sports have held onto rules for behavior like Tennis and Golf. HOORAY FOR THEM !

2) Bad call or not, the threats and comments made were inappropriate especially at that level of the sport.

3) Serena has admitted that she has a temper problem. Nuff said - this time it cost her dearly. She may not learn from it but hopefully other younger players will.

All-in-all the only thing that could have prevented claims of racism issue would have been if the line judge was her dad (or maybe Obama)and here opponent was her sister.

Get on with life folks. The woman made a mistake and chose the worst possible time and place to do it. Case closed, no investigation needed.

Posted by: AmzgGrce | September 13, 2009 3:24 PM
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my wife said this and she's right: the tantrum robs a clean victory from Clijsters, who was clearly dominating this game and would no doubt have won even if the game hadn't been interrupted by the meltdown. Williams was angry and freaking out b/c she's not used to getting beaten. Clijsters was beating her. She couldn't deal with and became enraged. Wilbons: she became enraged not at the line judge's call. She became enraged because she was getting taking to school by Clijsters. That's the point my friend.

Posted by: 1180 | September 13, 2009 3:19 PM
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I am utterly dismayed by the comment made by Michael Wilbon, "It seemed like a really, really bad call -- a stupid and petty call to come up with a foot fault there."

Rules are finitely defined in sports. There are no calls that are "stupid and petty." A rule is a rule, and if a rule is broken, it is broken. There is no lee-way in rules that says if it a game is close to match point, don't call foot faults.

I will never read another Michael Wilbon commentary again, and disapprove of the Washington Post of hiring such a non-sensical reporter.

Posted by: william818 | September 13, 2009 3:19 PM
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Replays didn't suggest that it wasn't a foot fault. There's no way to tell with a view from behind if the player's toe touches the line or not before they make contact. It was definitely close but with that angle there's no way to say that it didn't touch. The old Mac cam they used to have on the baseline would show it clearly. As would a shot from the front. She has been foot faulting a lot all tournament and was getting killed on her second serves all night so it wouldn't be surprising to see her try to put a bit more on her 2nd serve and end up foot faulting. It's pretty rare for a line judge to miscall a foot fault so it's more than likely that it was one considering how many times she's done them in the tournament. If it was one it should be called no matter what point in the match it is.

Posted by: Stu_c | September 13, 2009 2:55 PM
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jsg8: It's not like losing an NFL game because your socks are too low. Rather it is like losing an NFL game because your toe was on the line when you caught the ball. By the football analogy, the foot fault was on third down. Had she not gone off the handle she still had "4th down" to play, but she lost that opportunity when she went off.

Pam Shriver said on ESPN this morning that had Serena's outburst occurred in the beginning of the second set the Chair Umpire should have defaulted the match regardless. That's how over the top Williams' actions were.

Posted by: Rob63 | September 13, 2009 2:54 PM
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NOT a bad call, at all. I'm not sure, if you saw it from other angles, 'cause I did. She stepped on the line, she broke the rules, it's a foot-fault. Anyone who is suggesting that it was a bad call is probably black, a racist, and has a major chip on their shoulder. If you didn't see it from another angle, then it would be suggested that you look at other angles, before passing judgement, on that line unpire. I hope Serena Williams is severely fined, and suspended for abusing that line umpire, 'cause she is not above anyone, or anything. Then she claims she didn't remember what she said, to that line umpire, not to mention, she tried to taint and twist what she said, by dicrediting what the line umpire said. It's just another case of a professional athlete showing their 'behind', and revealing their true self. Nothing, but 'ghetto' mentality, along with a chip on her shoulder. Another "Michael Vick", getting caught lying to the world.

Posted by: seahero00 | September 13, 2009 2:47 PM
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There is a brand of people in this age which believe that it is ok to disrespect rules. In this age of what should be characterized by civil truth, beauty, and goodness, a good sport will play clearly within the rules as to not even bring up difficulty in the eyes of a judge. A great player wins clearly and fairly. Some players feel that they are above the game. This includes the game of life also. How arrogant and self assertive, one who would enter into 'the game' considering theirself immune to rules that establish the sanctity of sportsmanship, fairness and dignity. What is worse in this case is the reality of a life threat and a lenching of a judges peace and dignity. This behavior on this court is yet another example of an anti social class which has already destroyed the American Dream, and lowered the world's standard of living to the point that death is better than life upon this world. Another signal of moral bankruptcy which is equivilent to death. Is there a chance for this terminal world condition. It is up to each and every one of you, from pauper to president. Get it together. Respect yourself first. Obey rules. At least pull your own weight, and if possible the weight of another. Quit depending on others to serve you up a life. Discover your backbone and your mind. Above all, respect and love others as you love yourself. Believe in God and call upon His Infinite Love and support. Become like God and shine for others. Get up and be thou healed!!!

Posted by: uversa7 | September 13, 2009 2:27 PM
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Whodat2: You would have impaled the lineswoman with your racket? I hope you're not a parent. And if that remark reflects your everyday personality, you might consider some anger-control therapy. Re your and Wilbon's comments about not making tough calls at critical points in a match: This is the same mentality that says it's ok for Jordon to push off and make the game-winning shot, for Lebron to take five or six steps to the hoop to do the same or to call that outside pitch a strike with a 2-2 count and two outs in the ninth. It's no fairer to do it there than it is earlier in the contest. I think you make the call, and let the contestants battle it out within the rules.

Posted by: virwill1 | September 13, 2009 2:18 PM
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Bad call? Wilbon, Your bias blurs your vision. It was chocking to see Serena Williams disrespect every person watching the game and lied afterwards. She needs a psychiatric help.

Posted by: bluelagoon21 | September 13, 2009 2:12 PM
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Just more of the same from the Williams sisters.

They've never actually lost a match, you know. They've always been hurt, or there's been a bad call, or the clouds were in their eyes or something else.

It was a borderline call, but borderline calls happen in life. Get over it.

Posted by: WorfWWorfington | September 13, 2009 2:02 PM
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To BryanSullivan,

It was a straightforwardly wrong article, and your defense of Wilbon is straightforwardly a mistake, too. Wilbon uses the word "stupid" and thes word alone shows he did not get the problem. Many people care about society they want to live in, they want civility in relationships. Wilbon just imitates Williams with this rude word, and he is mostly concerned with Williams victories. And what is about you, BryanSullivan? Do you want your children to live in the world of ugly insults, threats, and abnormal behavior? Yes, it was a tennis match, but sometimes, dear BryanSullivan, in small things like this, you can identify bigger incoming problems. And Wilbon is not helpful in solving them. He is with rich and powerful Williams, not with tiny and abused Oriental looking lineswoman.

Posted by: Inkstand | September 13, 2009 2:02 PM
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Bad call? Wilbon, Your bias blurs your vision. It was chocking to see Serena Williams disrespect every person watching the game and lied afterwards.

Posted by: bluelagoon21 | September 13, 2009 1:52 PM
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Wow... I thought Wilbon was an OK guy. You got a lot of haters out there dude. Don't include me, you do a great job!

Oh, Serena did foot fault.

Posted by: davidw4892 | September 13, 2009 1:48 PM
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The replay was inconclusive as to whether Serena foot faulted or not, as Dick Enberg stated after the second replay. The camera angle was from behind the baseline and showed Serena's foot turning toward the line before jumping to strike the ball. She very well may have foot faulted.

After 10 or 12 years of very poor sportsmanship exhibited by Serena, perhaps she will finally be called out on it.

Obviously, she is a great player and a champion player, but too bad for her actions and words.

Posted by: LostinWisconsin | September 13, 2009 1:40 PM
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That goes double for you obviously need help in this area, you make so many suppositions, and assume so much in your post it's interesting...this is a really simple article people...fairly straightforward.
I love everyone's righteous indignation over a tennis match.

Posted by: bryansullivan | September 13, 2009 1:39 PM
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This is like losing an NFL playoff game because the officials decide a player's socks are too low. The only explanations for the judge making that call at that point in the match are racism and gross incompetence. Williams acted appropriately in that situation and should demand an apology.

Posted by: jsg8 | September 13, 2009 1:38 PM
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askgees, please follow my link to improve your reading comprehension skills...he never said the foot fault cost her the match, only that he didn't like the call, his opinion(That's what he is paid for), he says however her subsequent actions were what cost her the match, once again you're just someone who has a problem actually debating an issue AFTER reading the article, instead you blither about your views of the newspaper industry, Wilbon's on TV too he the reason TV is going down the tubes?

Posted by: bryansullivan | September 13, 2009 1:35 PM
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Wilbon's article is so wrong. 1) It is wrong on facts. 2) It is wrong in its rational.3) It is wrong in its language. 4) It is wrong in its spirit.
1) Wilbon is wrong when he said there was no foot fault. The fact is, video replay is inconclusive, it can be yes or no. Many people saw it as a foot fault.
2) Wilbon is wrong when he said Williams did not have to behave this way because it was bad for her career. Williams should not behave this way because her behavior was ugly and threatening and degrading. We all, and journalists first of all should care more about public safety, good morals, and normal behavior, and much less about perpetrators of all kind of abnormalities, not to mention their careers.
3)Wilbon is wrong when he calls referee decision "stupid," because such language is insulting and degrading, and now Wilbon himself is simply imitating Williams when he calls stupid people who may be good and decent, smart, and even correct on that foot fault.
4) Although Wilbon calls for investigation of referees, he has all answers, and he prejudges the results in advance. Wilbon is rude in his language, he is attacking referees, and he advises Williams not to do it again because it is not beneficial for her. Wilbon is obviously identifies himself with the rich and powerful attacker and her career in tennis, although he pretends at some point otherwise, and he cares much less about the abused tiny lineswoman. Thus, Wilbon violates some basic rules in journalism: objectivity, impartiality, civilized language, compassion towards abused.

Posted by: Inkstand | September 13, 2009 1:32 PM
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Wilbon is one of the reasons papers across the nation are failing. Wilbon is nothing but a big mouth but the sad part is, he thinks his point makes a difference. LOL

The foot fault had nothing to do with her losing. Her out burst cost her the match.

Posted by: askgees | September 13, 2009 1:31 PM
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Here's a good place to start in learning reading comprehension kids:

Posted by: bryansullivan | September 13, 2009 1:24 PM
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What's Obama going to do about this?

Posted by: Nomis1 | September 13, 2009 1:20 PM
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And anyone bashing Wilbon for the article should, take a breath, relax and re-read it, he doesn't condone what she did, he mearly says the initial foot fault call was petty at that point in the game and it was, he later writes "But to go on and on like that and let yourself become that distracted when a Grand Slam championship is on the line and you're within reach of winning the second set? I don't get that 1984 McEnroevian lack of control from a woman who is such a champion. It cost too much."
people need to take a reading comprehension class before they start posting their wacked out theories, agendas and opinions, it was a pretty straightforward was poorly timed, Serena acted poorly, threatened the line judge, she cost herself the match. Done.

Posted by: bryansullivan | September 13, 2009 1:18 PM
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Are you serious? Whether the call was right it was obvious (and I cannot read lips well) that she threatened to the line judge to "shove the ball down your f'in throat"
Totally out of line and not acceptable for an athlete of her caliber.
She deserved the point violation.
She should have sucked up the call (which is what we tell kids in community sports) and served her way out of the situation.

Posted by: jiboo | September 13, 2009 1:17 PM
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Mike, Mike, Mike -

Once again, you put blame on the process and not the violator. Fine - if you don't like the rule, and the players don't like the rule, then get the rule changed. BUT, as long as the rule is there, the rule is what it is. Oh, and by the way, you say replays seemed to show that there wasn't a foot fault? There wasn't a single replay that I saw that was along the baseline. The ONLY person that saw the line (other than the fans sitting right behind her) was the lineswoman. She saw it, she called it - all it takes is a toe on the line, and that's a foot fault. Timing was not great, but the rule is there. It doesn't say "in the event that the match is on the line, use discretion". These players already serve at 110 mph plus - they can at least abide by the rules. And, also, NO EXCUSE for Serena berating the lineswoman. Great example to set for the many young women who look(ed) up to her.

Posted by: SabrinaDaddy | September 13, 2009 1:12 PM
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LOL...the tinfoil hats are out even on a thread about Tennis??!!1 tinfoil hats with your acorn buisness, you're so's really fun to watch, but why bring race into this...aren't those of your ilk always saying the media and sporting institutions favor minorities? With lenient penalties and such? Last time I checked they gave her a ridiculous foot fault to cause double fault, then they rightfully penalized her a point for acting like she did...done...over...lots of athletes lose their cool, especially at that level of play...I don't think people understand the reality of playing pro sports your whole life and playing at that level, the emotions and physicality are overwhelming to one's mind and body and so she acted poorly, sometimes people do, be they tennis stars or actors or fishermen... and because of it she LOST.

Posted by: bryansullivan | September 13, 2009 1:10 PM
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sorry. if the line ref says it's a foot fault, it's a foot fault. what happens afterward depends on the athlete.

the line ref has nothing to do but watch the line and the server's feet. everyone else is most likely following the ball. if sports don't have rules and ways for enforcing the rules, then it loses it's 'sportness' and simply becomes a violent game of who can outwit the other and do first harm.

serena did much better at her post-game interview. smiling and realizing she made an error. i say 'way to go, girl. and next time, watch the line!'

Posted by: grasspress | September 13, 2009 1:10 PM
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This just in from 'Wilbon's world' It seemed like a really, really bad call -- a stupid and petty call to come up with a foot fault there. Replays certainly suggest it wasn't a foot fault.
It SEEMED (not sure?!?) Stuipid? How? To call it...... to ignore it? PETTY..PETTY then remove the rule from the game! leave the chairs one to yell penalty..........
Perhaps in Wilbon's world, you get all lawyered-up with SEEMED,STUPID,PETTY........It was not the call that ended the match, it was Serena.

Posted by: aljb | September 13, 2009 1:02 PM
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If this incident was about race, it was the race of the linesperson. If the official had been a 6 ft. blond white man, do you think Serena would have threatened him in the same way. She felt that a small, ORIENTAL woman was an easy target. The fact she threatened her twice, shows that she wanted to be penalised and lose the game that way.

Posted by: jasullivan1 | September 13, 2009 1:02 PM
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Total double-standard by Wilbon. Serena is a VIP to him, thus cursing out an official and threatening to cram a ball down her throat (much more polite than actually yelled) is a mere mistake to him.

Wilbon luvs to ban players for seasons or for life....well, except for his peeps. If you're going to be a "hanging judge," be consistent and hang friends too. Otherwise, you're just a blowhard.

Posted by: socalattorney | September 13, 2009 12:45 PM
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"Replays certainly suggest it wasn't a foot fault. If I was Serena Williams I'd have been enraged, too." our athletes are expected to be "enraged" if there's a bad call?


But no surprise Serena lost her cool as she was losing the match. She's never been particularly graceful in victory or defeat. When she loses, there's ALWAYS an excuse. Just like last night.

Posted by: kemp13 | September 13, 2009 12:42 PM
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Serena is an amazing player and one of the most dynamic champions to come along in a very long time. Unfortunately, she has more and more displayed incredibly boorish behavior that has really harmed her legacy. Her press conferences. Her pouting. Her temper tantrums. And her lack of grace when things do not go her way. Yes, there are bad calls. Everyone suffers through them. It's the test of a champion on how you respond. And I find her unwillingness to apologize for how her behavior might affect others a perfect example of her narcissism. She should take some time, think about who and what she represents and come back the radiant and sparkling champion she can be.

Posted by: zonkerscm | September 13, 2009 12:41 PM
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Did Serena behave behadly? Absolutely. But those of you defending the line judge have clearly never played at the championship level of any sport. There are certain calls in any sport (football, basketball and yes, tennis) that are not made when critical points are on the line. The intent is to let the athletes' talents decide the outcome - not the judge, ref or ump! That lineswoman was braindead if she did not realize that footfault was a call to let go with 2 breakpoints to the match end. In my opinion, Serena showed restraint in not throwing her racket - I'd have impaled her with it. And for all those saying the USTA will back the lineswoman? You bet they will and then bet she won't work the Women's bracket next year. She'll be in the Junior tournament, where she belongs...

Posted by: whodat2 | September 13, 2009 12:41 PM
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She should be fined. It will be a race thing before it is over. ACORN will use the 8.6 millions it is getting in stimulus money to come to her defense. GO Wilson!!! I love him!!


What a completely asinine post, Nancy. Grow up.

Posted by: lewfournier1 | September 13, 2009 12:38 PM
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I'm not sure why everyone is making such a big deal over this...the line judge made a dubious call...especially at that moment in the match...

Serena reacted poorly, was penalized for it, and life moves on.

Anyone claiming roid rage must have never actually seen someone act out an incident of roid rage...

Was McEnroe acting out roid rage or was he a fierce competitor and a poor loser?

Posted by: squatty2 | September 13, 2009 12:25 PM
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However you call it, as far as I saw it on the video, her foot was on the line. The referee was concentrating at that moment on her feet -- noone else was focusing on those feet besides her.

Posted by: chun1 | September 13, 2009 12:23 PM
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And one more moreover: The fact that the fault was called on a decisive match point is NOT - REPAEAT - NOT a petty call. The USTA specifically commented on the rule to draw attention to the fact that it is NOT TO BE CONSIDERED A TRIVIAL violation and thus should not be disregarded.

It was proper officiating and the correct call

Posted by: sycoanalyst | September 13, 2009 12:22 PM
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However you call it, as far as I saw it on the video, her foot was on the line. The referee was concentrating at that moment on her feet -- noone else besides her.

Posted by: chun1 | September 13, 2009 12:21 PM
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I am a long-time tennis fan and am extremely disappointed in Serena Williams' behavior. Yes, it is McEnroe behavior, but it is not the behavior historically demonstrated by the Williams sisters as they have earned their way to Grand Slam supremacy. I have seen her come through worse calls that went against her. I did appreciate her sportspersonship afterwards when she walked across the court to congratulate Clijsters. That was class. Something McEnroe only achieved after he retired from the Tour.

Serena Williams should be heavily fined and publicly apologize to the fans of the sport.

Posted by: postosty | September 13, 2009 12:17 PM
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In the outside world it’s called assault when you threaten someone. I’m so glad she lost the match and showed the tennis world her true personality. It’s been obvious for a while now what kind of person lies beneath the interview personality. And she can’t even apologize! I hope she’s booed everywhere she goes……

Posted by: MarkACantor | September 13, 2009 12:12 PM
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What do you expect from a a nasty woman raised by an obnoxious loud-mouthed father ! Good-good-goodbye Serena !

Posted by: loretoguy | September 13, 2009 12:12 PM
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Unbelievable how many people talk out of their ass. Here is Rule 8 of Tennis:

"FOOT FAULT The Server shall throughout the delivery of the Service:b)Not touch, with either foot, any area other than that behind the base-line within the imaginary extensions of the centre-mark and side-lines."

MOREOVER..........."USTA Comment: This rule covers the most decisive stroke in the game, and there is no justification for its not being obeyed by players and enforced by officials. No official has the right to instruct any umpire to disregard violations of it."

Once again amateurs and peasants: Your foot does not have to be OVER the line - all you have to do is TOUCH it and it is a FOOT FAULT.

It was NOT a bad call.

Posted by: sycoanalyst | September 13, 2009 12:10 PM
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Who cares?

Posted by: scoates2482 | September 13, 2009 12:09 PM
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She should be fined. It will be a race thing before it is over. ACORN will use the 8.6 millions it is getting in stimulus money to come to her defense. GO Wilson!!! I love him!!

Posted by: nancysmith1 | September 13, 2009 12:06 PM
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Is Serena on steroids? Sure looks like roid-rage to me.

Time to start drug testing tennis!

Posted by: beenthere3 | September 13, 2009 12:03 PM
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I cannot believe that with todays technology there isn't any to actually see whether there is a foot fault or not. Take it out of the linepeoples hands. I guess i'll design it.

Posted by: artax_2002 | September 13, 2009 12:02 PM
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I am not a tennis player but in the sports I have played, I have learned not to argue with the Ref. You are going to lose. Serena is a person with a great deal of experience with Refs. She knew what she was doing. She did it after deliberation....preparing to serve again. She then decided to go after the Ref rather than serving. Did she not want to lose while playing? We do not know. It appeared that way to me.

Posted by: Thependulumswings | September 13, 2009 12:02 PM
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Mr. Wilson why do you always take the side of the Williams sisters, or should I say sister because Venus would not have acted that way? And lost in your comment is the fact this is not the first time Serena has verbally attacked someone, if you remember her threat to her opponent at the French Open heard on open microphones.

No one could tell if she did foot fault, which by the way was her second of the match, but it is time someone took Serena to task for her attitude, lack of preparation, and menacing behavior. Certainly her parents won't so perhaps it is up to the WTA.

It is also telling that she was booed off the court after the incident, just as she was booed off the court in Cincinnati for "tanking". She is no credit to women's tennis!

Posted by: bobbi2 | September 13, 2009 11:52 AM
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Please note that Serena said in her subsequent press conference (see transcript on the US Open site) that she's "pretty sure" that she did foot fault. I'm dismayed to see this article make much of how bad the call was when the tv angle doesn't allow a clear judgment and even Serena said she thinks she did. Leave this poor linesperson alone.

Posted by: Texastennis | September 13, 2009 11:51 AM
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Serina was clearly misbehaving all through the match.
An Acorn told me it was about race again.

Gee if that is the truth, andthere is a pulse out there, then we must face the fact that it was 3 Mexicans placing swastikas on black people's homes in Fountain Hills Arizona, and writing Jew on Jewish Homes, and it an Asian referee coming after Serina.

Can it be simply that she was wrong first and created the upset when she threw her racket, which then made the fertile ground for a bad call by the line ref?

Once the call was made Serina should have sucked it up and realized her tenuious postition and compensate by backing off the issue completely.
Some battles are the wrong ones to choose.

Posted by: dottydo | September 13, 2009 11:49 AM
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I'm sorry, Serena. You were over the line, that's a foul.

This is a league game. This determines who enters the next round, am I wrong?

Serena, this is not 'Nam. This is Tennis. There are rules.

Serena my friend, you're entering a world of pain. A world of pain.

Posted by: free5 | September 13, 2009 11:48 AM
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In Serena's defense, in all my years of watching her have never seen her behave this way before. Not that I want to excuse her behavior, but it does need to be put into some perspective. Give her a break and hopefully she'll issue some apology to the lines person, to her fans, and learn from this experience going forward.

Posted by: kvs09 | September 13, 2009 11:47 AM
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Mr. Wilbon, the linespersons' foot fault call was NOT A BAD CALL. From the camera angle on the replays, there is no way to tell definitively. The camera angle is BEHIND THE LINE. But as you watch, you CAN tell that when Serena rocked back on her heel during that second serve, she then turns her foot at a better angle toward the net and rocks forward on the balls of her foot, appearing to PLACE THE TOES OF HER FOOT ON THE BASELINE. Then you see her heel move forward toward the net, and it then appears the whole left edge of her left foot is ON THE BASELINE as she jumps into her serve. This would then create a flagrant foot fault worthy of the call at that point, or any other point in the match for that matter.

Much has been made of the timing of the call, but the correct call of the foot fault at that juncture was just as critical to Kim Clijsters as it was to Serena Williams. Kim Clijsters should not be denied a fair play on receiving serve when she's up a few points close to winning the match any more than Serena should be allowed an advantage when she's down a few points on her service game.

Posted by: tfseem | September 13, 2009 11:37 AM
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She should just apologize to the source of her discontent and move on. Maybe she should just wear a t shirt that says "you lie."

Posted by: deucebollards | September 13, 2009 11:30 AM
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Is Serena Williams from South Carolina? That could explain her thuggish uncivil behavior.

Posted by: SemperPax | September 13, 2009 11:27 AM
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Hmm... what would cause an unusually muscle-bound athlete to lose their temper and threaten to kill somebody?

Posted by: simpleton1 | September 13, 2009 11:26 AM
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It was absolutely fantastic to see Serena lose. All her actions confirmed what everyone already knows - Serena Williams is an extremely poor sport.

Posted by: popopo | September 13, 2009 11:23 AM
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The current lesson for America is “civility”. Representative Wilson’s rude outburst during the Presidents address and now Serena’s emotional outburst last night provide the lesson for us to consider. In order to have our point of view taken seriously, we need to maintain respect for one another.

The fact that Serena did not “foot fault” and was falsely penalized became irrelevant. The question we would have been is “why did the linesperson make a completely erroneous call at the most critical point in the game? Why did the chair umpire not overrule this call?

But those questions will never be explored. The linesperson will never reveal why she made such a critical call – that was clearly wrong.

That is the tragedy of Serena’s outburst. We can’t address the real issue. We can’t ask the right questions. We are left with condemning Serena’s loss of composure. We will have to wait until the next time a ridiculous call is made and hope the athlete involved remains calm and asks the chair umpire to review the replay and determine if the linesperson is qualified to continue.

Posted by: NewThoughts | September 13, 2009 11:18 AM
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This may be out of line but as a retired gynecologist I believe Serena's attitude and somewhat off-play has to be attributed possibly to her hormonal cycle. The symptoms were all there and she certainly seemed to have collected herself for the post-match interviews. Tough way to lose a match but the judges could do nothing else and retain their authority.

Posted by: bobtich | September 13, 2009 11:14 AM
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Serena is a sore loser and and just plain bad sportsperson. Always someone else fault, she did play well, never someone just played better than her. She could learn some grace and humility but oh wait you can't buy those things and SHE certainly did learn it from her Loser Father.

Posted by: lildg54 | September 13, 2009 11:09 AM
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I guess there is no "player challenge" for a foot fault call; that's too bad and perhaps should be reviewed. I agree that the tv replays are inconclusive, but the number of foot faults called on both Serena and her sister in this tournament bother me. Am I wrong in remembering no other foot faults called on any of the televised matches except on the Williams sisters? Is this an issue with their games that the two of them have suddenly developed? I don't remember this being a problem any time for either of them the way they've been in this tournament.

That said, Serena's behavior after the call was atrocious and she deserved the penalty she incurred whether the call was correct or incorrect. She was clearly frustrated with the way she was playing and she took every bit out of it on the linesperson. That is completely unacceptable and the fact that she did it with the match on the line (or shall we say on her mouth) makes a very sad statement on her lack of maturity as well as lack of respect for the game, her opponent, the fans and the officials. I am not sure even Johnny Mac ever got himself defaulted out of a semifinal of a grand slam, did he?

She deserved the loss, unfortunately, and I hope she learns from it.

Posted by: pmi1027 | September 13, 2009 10:45 AM
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I've yet to read a news report today that mentioned some other significant details. Serena was given a warning after destroying her racket at the end of the first set that she would lose a point for a second violation. Then when the foot fault was called she angrily approach the line judge twice screaming words that CBS edited. Only after the second time that she did not return to the service line, the chair umpire called the line judge to the chair and the collective decision was that she should be given the point penalty. It was a little more than just getting upset once with a single call.

Posted by: Oldkayaker | September 13, 2009 10:34 AM
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Did you ever see a replay from the angle of the line judge ? The only replay I saw was from behind as not sufficient to decide one way or another. Serena could not tell either as she was serving. I've seen her foot fault before.

But it was clear from the tape that Serena did threaten the judge; I heard "stuffing" "ball" "down throat" plus cursing.

Clearly not sorting conduct, and I believe the event rules specify that all complaints are to be addressed to the officials, not linesmen.

Posted by: AndrewDover | September 13, 2009 10:29 AM
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Since there was never a view down the line, no one can say if the call was accurate or not. If Serena did step on the line during her service motion, it was indeed a foot fault. All faults should be called, so I can't agree that it is a petty call if there was a fault. Is it petty to call a service fault if the ball is out by only a little?

Serena was losing the match, and went and lost her composure, which sealed her defeat.

Posted by: kamdog | September 13, 2009 10:23 AM
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u can barley tell on the video if sw foot faulted, it certainly looked from the camera angle that her foot was on the line. Mac is and was always a loud mouth, it cost him plenty in rep and in matches, it goes w/the turf, gotta control yr anger.

Posted by: snapplecat07 | September 13, 2009 10:22 AM
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Serena Williams biography:

"Days of Disgrace"

Posted by: jimmyjimmy1 | September 13, 2009 10:20 AM
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